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I made almost $6,000 in 2 weeks doing nothing in a clinical trial. I was desperate to get out by the end, but I'll do it again.

Daisy Schofield   

I made almost $6,000 in 2 weeks doing nothing in a clinical trial. I was desperate to get out by the end, but I'll do it again.
  • Faith Larkum was a freshman at university looking to make some extra money during her vacation.
  • She signed up for a two-week medical trial with the UK-based company FluCamp.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Faith Larkum, a student who participated in a FluCamp trial. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I was a freshman in my first term of university when I saw a FluCamp ad on my Instagram feed. It explained you could get paid for participating in a clinical trial. As a broke university student, I was intrigued.

I was slightly suspicious about the company's legitimacy, but after a background check, it all seemed real — so I applied to join.

How a clinical trial testing flu medicine works

FluCamp called the next day, inviting me for a blood test and explaining how the trial worked. The premise of the trial is you're injected with a diluted flu virus and then given either medicine or a placebo. You spend two weeks in a private room getting routinely tested, with your symptoms monitored by nurses and doctors.

Getting paid £4,500, about $5,756, for two weeks of doing almost nothing and contributing to medical science while doing it seemed like a good deal.

About six weeks later, I received a phone call telling me I'd passed the screening and was eligible. The blood tests are used to check that you're fit and healthy enough to take part, so there are minimal health risks for participants. They told me I could do the trial during the Christmas vacation before returning to my studies in January.

The intense isolation and needles concerned me

I had some reservations. I was worried about how isolated I'd be during the trial because I'm very much an extrovert. The other worry I had was about the amount of blood tests you have to do because I sometimes pass out giving blood. I did pass out a few times, but by the end, I felt like a pro, and it helped me get over my fear.

I spoke to a few of the doctors before. I asked them how sick I would get and whether I'd be bedbound the whole time. The doctor assured me there's a very low risk that you'd get very, very ill. People will likely experience some mild cold or flu-like symptoms, but I felt fine the entire time.

At the beginning of the trial, you get briefed about what will happen with the other 15 or so people taking part in FluCamp's trial. It was a complete mix of ages and genders. Once that's over, you go to your private room with an en-suite bathroom. You're on your own for the rest of your time there — aside from the visits from doctors and nurses.

Nothing happens for the first few days; then, you're injected with the virus

You aren't injected with the flu for the first few days of the trial. I was just chilling, doing my university work. You're injected with a diluted flu virus and given the medicine or a placebo a few days in.

After that, a FluCamp staff member gave us a tick sheet to fill out every morning about how we felt and whether we had any symptoms. Doctors would come in about four times daily to test your vitals, like a blood test, blood pressure, and EKG. Other than that, you're just left to your own devices.

You have to make your own fun during a medical trial

I binge-watched movies. I read a book in like three hours. I was journaling a lot, and doing a lot of introspection. I had three or four essays for university, and I just banged them out.

The only entertainment you're given is a PS4 and a few different games. FluCamp said anything else you want to do, you have to bring in. I did have to keep finding different things to entertain myself because it quickly became monotonous.

The food is unlimited, so you can order as much as you want from this app you download. I tried to order a different thing each day until I'd exhausted all the options. I liked a lasagne and rice dish, and the sandwiches were delicious. You can always ask for extra snacks like popcorn, crisps, and cereal bars. The food was all right, but there could have been more variety.

Not being allowed outside or to exercise was tough

The thing I found the hardest was probably the lack of fresh air. You're not allowed to leave the facility, and my window opened an inch. You can't socialize with anyone, and you're not allowed to exercise either because they want to ensure that if you recover faster or slower than others, it isn't because you've exercised. So I just felt really lazy and gross.

The hardest point was eight days in. I couldn't believe it was only halfway over. I thought to myself: can I do this? I'd done all my work; I'd started several TV series and given up. I enjoy films and series as much as the next person, but after the trial, I'd completely maxed out my capacity for TV.

I was desperate to get out by the end, but I'll do it again

I enjoyed making TikToks every day, walking people through a "day in the life" of flu camp, and reading all the comments — that kept me going. I should have bought more fiction, as escapism would've gone a long way. Next time, I'll bring in more artsy stuff — like drawings, paintings, or my ukulele — activities that will reduce my screen time.

I was paid £4,500, about $5,756, for the two-week trial. I went in with the idea of saving that money as a buffer while I studied on top of my student loans. But then I spent most of it on a trip to Bali.

The trial made me realize how much I don't like being alone. Toward the end, I was desperate to get out. I assumed I was more of an introvert than I am and realized how much I need people and socializing. It's worth it for the money, and I've signed up again next year.

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